From science to fantasy, Bride is a refreshing turn for author Ali Hazelwood

4 Mins read

Known for the contemporary romcoms set in academia, her new book brings a surprising love story between supernatural beings

RATING: ★★★½

Forbidden relationships between supernatural beings are nothing new in the literary world. And young adults, in particular, seem to enjoy this type of plot. There is something about a predestined love story, full of conflicting plots, that intrigues and arouses curiosity.

It is also the kind of thing Ali Hazelwood might write about.

With a PhD in Neuroscience, the Italian author had previously written exclusively about academia because that is what she knows best – she said so herself on a panel at the São Paulo Book Biennale in 2022.

Her first book The Love Hypothesis (2021) is a romantic comedy that follows the outgoing PhD student Olive Smith and her (often awkward) relationship with the feared young researcher Adam Carlsen. It was an instant hit. It spent more than 40 weeks at the top of the New York Times bestseller list and soon had a screen adaptation announced.

Her next three books and three short stories (which she calls The STEMinist Novellas) followed a very similar formula – that is, until now. After giving the young adult literary universe a necessary refresh with her academy novels, Ali Hazelwood is now giving her own portfolio a refresh by venturing into the fantastic world for the first time.

Author Ali Hazelwood wears a red T-shirt, black blazer and jeans. Sitting on a chair, she holds a microphone and talks about her career in literature
Ali Hazelwood at São Paulo Book Biennale [Natália Magalhães]

Bride (2024) is narrated by a vampire whose name (and I am not kidding) is Misery Lark. It is appropriate, though. She honestly hasn’t had a very good life. Her mother died giving birth to her, her father treats her with a rather cold indifference and her relationship with her twin brother isn’t the best.

However, despite the unconventional name, Misery is an attractive heroine: playful, determined, loyal. And, of course, she is a very geeky hacker – otherwise, despite the fantastic elements, this wouldn’t be an Ali Hazelwood novel.

In this fictional world created by the author with its own rules and policies, humans, vampires and werewolves share a very delicate state of truce, in which even one misinterpreted breath can end everything.

To seal this truce, humans and vampires exchange hostages every ten years: one child from each group, who are called Collateral.

Misery’s father, the leader of the vampires, sent her as a child as a kind of living guarantee. Because of that, she grew up alone until she met the human Serena, who became her best and only friend.

Now that she is grown up and stopped being a Collateral a few years ago, the protagonist lives among humans by choice. That is, until her father decides to use her yet again as a political pawn in a new hostile environment. This time, she must marry Lowe Moreland, the Alpha of the werewolf pack.

Misery, however, has her own reasons for agreeing to be the Bride: Serena disappeared while investigating a story – and the only clue her friend left points directly to the man who is about to become her husband.

In general, many of the plot beats may sound familiar. After all, well-known tropes are well-known for a reason. But here the paranormal romance is interwoven with Ali Hazelwood’s characteristic humour. Some passages are clear references to other contemporary works.

The most memorable example I can cite is Twilight (2008), by Stephenie Meyer. Just as in Bella and Edward’s romance, Misery thinks that Lowe repulses her because of his overreaction to her scent the first time they meet. When, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The book cover has a black background, with the title Bride and author Ali Hazelwood's name written in red and an illustration of a woman in front of a
Bride book cover [Courtesy of Ali Hazelwood]

Bride is an engaging story, but far from cosy. Everyone has a sad past or present. Or both. Misery and Lowe, in particular, carry really heavy loads of emotional baggage. Yet, the protagonist’s way of seeing things does bring all the comic relief to the story – making us forget that, most of the time, she is in constant danger, whether from humans, werewolves or her own race.

In any case, it is just nice to follow the leading couple’s slow burn from beginning to end. Despite the lack of communication and the (annoying) number of times the phrase “it’s for your own good” is used to avoid explanations, the “opposites attract” trope gives a boost to their surprisingly strong chemistry.

The book falters, however, when it comes to resolving the many complex political machinations brought up throughout the plot. Over the course of the book, an interesting web of mysteries is built up, only to be solved too easily in one chapter.

The ending seemed sudden and abrupt. When all the characters are gathered in one room listening to the bad guy’s monologue and everything is resolved with each line, I was left wondering how we got here so quick.

Although some of these resolutions were already somewhat predictable for readers, the last chapter doesn’t offer the depth required to make it feel very convincing.

It’s not entirely Ali Hazelwood’s fault, though. I understand that there are many factors involved in publishing a book. And perhaps her publishers want to make the most of her fame by getting her to release books in a matter of months, not years.

But it takes time to develop and refine a story. Regardless of that, her writing style is good, easy and entertaining. It wouldn’t be a problem to read some extra pages if it meant a better-developed ending.

For her first venture into the fantastic universe, this book is an unexpected delight. The marriage of convenience, plus the predestined mate aspect and all the other supernatural elements, of course, certainly set Bride apart from her previous romcoms.

The brief glimpse we get of Lowe’s point of view at the beginning of each chapter is another welcome change, keeping the reading dynamic. I’ve read many novels that alternate the characters’ points of view between chapters, but never this particular combination.

There is still no confirmation as to whether Bride will be turned into a series or not, since Ali Hazelwood’s previous publications were stories that found a beginning, middle and end in themselves.

All I know is that, should she decide on a sequel (and the book’s epilogue gives full scope for this), there will be plenty of eager readers – including me.

Featured image Courtesy of Ali Hazelwood.

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